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Wed. November 7, 2012 | Times Staff

Hillsborough: Boys and girls soccer preview

Even as the football postseason kicks into high gear, the futbol regular season is easing into first gear. The first girls soccer matches were staged last week, while boys soccer formally commenced Monday. Here’s our look at the top sides and strikers, sweepers and sleepers of the 2012-13 campaign:

Boys
Preseason top five
1. Jesuit:
The Tigers, who already have topped Newsome and Gaither this week, return 15 players from last winter’s Class 3A state semifinalist team. Teeming with depth everywhere, Jesuit’s particularly strong up the middle; NSCAA all-America candidate Jacob Vila scored two goals against Newsome.

2. Tampa Prep: The reigning Class A state champs graduated forward Jordan Hayes, the state’s player of the year, but return several vital components from that title-winning side. Watch for forwards Shaddy Douidar (four goals, 15 assists in 2011-12) and Michael Spezza (10 goals, 10 assists).

3. Steinbrenner: A player-eligibility issue essentially de-railed the Warriors’ 2011-12 season, causing them to forfeit some matches and a high district tournament seeding. Steinbrenner returns a strong nucleus of talent, which we’re presuming will be salivating for atonement.

4. Gaither: A 4A state semifinalist last winter, Gaither graduated its best overall player (23-goal scorer Jonas Bukh), but should be a more balanced side this season. Defensively, Justin Santos is one of the top sweepers around.

5. Berkeley Prep: Last winter’s 2A runnerup graduated eight senior starters and will be without standout midfielder Tyler Sacone (torn ankle ligaments) for roughly a month, but appears to have replenished nicely. Case in point: a 2-1 win Monday against Wharton
In the conversation: Bloomingdale, Freedom, Leto, Newsome, Plant City, Wharton

Formidable up front
Five goal scorers to watch
Shaddy Douidar, Sr., Tampa Prep: Coach Doug Smith says he’s “playing out of his mind”

Gerson Herrera, Sr., Plant City:  Fleet all-conference forward coming off a 15-goal season

Eric Mubang, Jr., Jesuit: Tigers’ top returning goal scorer (10 goals, four assists)

Ajay Sequeira, Sr., Newsome: Quick-footed striker is loaded with experience

Michael Spezza, Jr., Tampa Prep:  10-goal scorer as sophomore; pure finisher

Money in the middle
Five playmakers to watch
Thomas Valencia, Sr., Leto: Among solid veteran nucleus returning from playoff team

Enrique Barboto, Sr., Steinbrenner: First-team all-conference honors in 2012

Daniel Felman, Jr., Berkeley Prep: Tallied 15 goals, 16 assists for last season’s 2A runnerup

Ethan Saleh, Sr., Jesuit: Tied school single-season record with 19 assists last winter

Jacob Vila, Jr., Jesuit: With Anthony Bellini, forms arguably area’s top center-mid tandem

Defense wins titles
Five keepers/sweepers to watch

Macsen Pritchard, Sr., Tampa Prep: Veteran complemented by 6-4 enforcer Oscar Skjaerpe

Justin Santos, Sr., Gaither: Veteran sweeper anchored unit that allowed 1.2 goals last season

Christian Knight, Jr., Steinbrenner: First-team all-conference keeper as a sophomore

Keenan Kushner, Sr., Wharton: Arguably county’s top returning keeper (1.06 GAA as junior)

Lucas Schmeling, Jr., Jesuit: Allowed two regulation goals in four playoff matches last season

Girls
1. Wharton:
Wildcats, who knocked off Steinbrenner in the finals of its invitational Saturday, are off to a strong start behind seniors and all-Western Conference selections Leah Chisolm and Ashni Deschenes. Wharton seems poised for a breakthrough in 5A-7.

2. Newsome: Defending 5A-7 champion will reload all-county forwards Liz Haumschild and Taylor DeCaire and midfielder Emily Jones. The Wolves also return star sophomore Karli Gutsche on defense and “a strong freshman class to keep our winning tradition going,” said coach Kelly Townsend, who surpassed 100 career victories this year.

3. Steinbrenner: Warriors should remain one of the county’s strongest programs despite the loss of coach Robert Woodard and all-time scoring leader Cici Gonzalez. Filling their shoes are first-year coach Angela Gillisse and seniors Alexis Bredeau and Marley Opila. Steinbrenner also returns all-Hillsborough defender Miranda Gonzalez and top goalkeeper Stephanie Hirsch.

4. Plant: In a district that boasts area powers Wharton, Newsome and Bloomingdale, the Panthers have enough skill and depth to win the title and survive the loss of Abby Meckley, a first-team all-county selection who scored 16 goals. The Panthers are counting on big contributions from goalie Kara Looby and midfielder Caroline Bado and even a freshman, Emily Evangelista, who will move onto the defense and “looks to be an impact player,” said coach Pamela Smith.

5. Tampa Prep: After missing the state final four for the first time in five years, the Terrapins hope to rebound with a young team — only two seniors — that’s already off to an 0-2 start. The early exit “left a bitter taste in our mouths,” said coach Cindy Schofield. Tampa Prep hopes junior forward Alexandra Daley can replace some of the offense lost with the graduation of last year’s Player of the Year Colby Maffei.

Formidable up front
Five goal scorers to watch
Caroline Bado, Sr., Plant: UCF commit had eight goals and six assists as a midfielder last year.

Alexandra Daley, Sr., Tampa Prep: Schofield calls her “a speedy forward who can run behind any defense.”

Taylor DeCaire, Sr., Newsome: As a junior led the Wolves with 17 goals and added six goals. Expect even more this season.

Ashni Deschenes, Sr., Wharton: Stetson commit has led the Wildcats in scoring the past two seasons.

Ericka Lott, Jr., Plant City: All-county selection as a sophomore, racking up 18 goals and 13 assists.

Money in the middle
Five playmakers to watch
Emily Jones, Sr., Newsome: After switching from defense to midfield last year, Jones excelled in her new role. She had 11 goals and six assists.

Leah Chisolm, Sr., Wharton: All-Western Conference selection and a member of the Guyana national U17 and U20 teams.

Diana Corzine, Jr., Plant City: Will control the middle of the field for the defending 4A-9 champs.

Caroline King, Jr., Robinson: Had seven goals and four assists for the Knights, who captured their first district title last year.

Haillie Lower, Fr., Tampa Prep: You’ll have to take the word of her coach who calls Lower “a beast in the middle of the field.”

Defense wins titles
Five keepers/sweepers to watch

Miranda Gonzalez, Jr., Steinbrenner: Key member of a defense that shut down a number of potent offenses in the Warriors’ run to the region semifinals.

Karli Gutsche, So., Newsome: UCF commit was a key contributor and also scored seven goals as a freshman.

Brittany Coca, Sr., Bloomingdale: Bulls will count on this all-Western Conference selection to defend against some of the state’s toughest offenses in district play.

Kara Looby, Sr., Plant: Smith calls her “amazing.” The Georgia commit is pivotal to the Panthers’ playoff hopes.

Ruth Seleznik, Sr., Robinson: Rice commit anchors the defense of the defending 3A-9 champs; also added five goals, two assists.

Compiled by staff writers Joey Knight and Joel Anderson.

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